Map of the State of Arizona, USA




Arid territories

― urban metropolitan areas and hydrological infrastructures in arid regions

Urban metropolitan areas in dry regions have a complex relation to the context of the arid territory―they exist in a state of otherness. Growing beyond the capacity to obtain water from local sources, the city expands its hydrological infrastructure to include regional catchment areas in order to provide its inhabitants with water. This artificial existence in terms of water sustenance implies a parasitic relation to the larger region, where it causes water deficiency in other parts of the region. The relation is further complicated by prolonged droughts, where an increased demand for water caused by urban expansion is in contrast to a variable and limited supply of water.

The topographical distance between the city and the water catchment areas in arid regions extend across territorial borders where the redistribution of water resources on a regional scale, including alterations of natural river systems, causes changes in the landscape. The engineered landscape is marked by dam structures, reservoirs and aqueducts. In part, the territory can be marked by dried up lakes and desertification of the land―remnants of the redistribution of water courses that forms a repository of past interventions. These are evidence of a negligence to understand the implications of altering hydrological systems in arid landscapes, where the consequences of these interventions can cause changes that affect land use and economy.

As the processes and factors that affect the hydrological systems transcend geographical borders across the geo-political divide, the system will have to be considered in a large scale regional context. An increased water demand caused by urban metropolitan expansion in relation to the aridity in the region with a limited or diminishing water supply calls for new solutions in regards to the distribution and management of water. This is forcing a shift in the development of hydrological infrastructures to form new types of urban typologies adapted to arid conditions.

The research will focus on the Southwest region of the United States―a region that is characterised by growing metropolitan areas in a dry landscape, where a drought for the past decade has been further increasing the aridity and desertification of the region. The project is an investigation into the large scale water distribution and the effects on urban settlement. The project will study the complex, interrelating issues of water rights, privatisation and management and the effects of development on urban spatial interventions in relation to the regeneration of hydrological infrastructures.

Arid territories

research project, 2014 - ongoing

project team: Johanna Irander